Salivary glands
Normal Anatomy

Author: Sally Tanakchi, M.B.Ch.B. (see Authors page)
Editor: F. Zahra Aly, M.D., Ph.D.

Revised: 15 October 2015, last major update September 2015

Copyright: (c) 2002-2015,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Embryology [title] salivary glands
Definition / General
  • Parotid gland primordia (anlage) arises in weeks 5-6 from ectoderm, followed by submandibular gland primordia in week 6 from endoderm, then sublingual gland primordia in weeks 7-8 from endoderm
  • Intra-oral minor salivary glands (including Von Ebner’s gland) develop during the third month from endoderm
  • Primordia develop from primitive oral cavity (stomodeum) as buds, which proliferate as cords, form terminal bulbs, develop clefts and further proliferate as branches from original cord; then the process is repeated
  • Lumens form in epithelial cords and progress to terminal bulbs; cells differentiate into various ducts and acini
  • Connective tissue diminishes with maturation
  • Parotid buds may penetrate intra-parotid lymph nodes; rare with submandibular or sublingual structures
  • Secretion by the parotid glands via the parotid duct begins at about 18 weeks of gestation, while secretion by the submandibular gland begins at 16 weeks of gestation
Micro Images
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  • AFIP Figure 1-2:
    • Left: The origin of the parotid gland, submandibular gland and sublingual gland from the epithelial lining of the primitive stomodeum is illustrated in the schematic drawing of the oral cavity of a 9-week-old embryo
    • Right: photomicrograph in section through fetal tongue, linguogingivalgroove and buccal mucosa shows the proliferative epithelial cord of the developing parotid gland (arrow)

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  • AFIP Figure 1-3:
    • Left: the primitive epithelial ducts and tubules are mostly undifferentiated and within a very loose, but moderately cellular, fibrous stroma in a 25-week-old fetus
    • Right: at high magnification, the terminal tubules are a double layer of epithelial cells
      • The outer layer will differentiate into myoepithelial and basal cells, and the inner cells will become ductal and serous acinar cells